Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an immigration benefit for F-1 students, giving you the opportunity to obtain work experience in the U.S. after finishing your degree.

OPT is one-year work authorization in your major. If you graduated in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics), you can apply for an additional 24 months.

Apply for OPT

You can apply for OPT beginning 90 days before your program end date or up to 60 days after your program end date. The approval process can take up to 90 days, so it is best to plan in advance. You cannot begin working until you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD card).

OPT Application Requirements

  • Complete Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
  • Complete form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance
  • Obtain adviser’s signature on the “Academic Program Verification Form”
  • Read, sign and date “OPT Statement of Understanding”.  Initial next to each statement to show that you have read and understood each one.
  • Obtain 2 passport-sized photographs, color, taken in the last 30 days.
  • Obtain a check or money order for $410 payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  (Credit cards or cash are not accepted.)
  • Copy of passport, visa, and I-94 record

Make an appointment to see a DSO in the Center for Global Learning and Engagement when you are ready to submit your application.  Please have all documents prepared BEFORE you come to the appointment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Could I have a copy of the OPT Reference Guide?

Download the OPT Reference Guide for basic questions and the application process.

Must I have a job offer before applying for OPT?

No. You can start looking for jobs while your OPT is pending, but you cannot work until your OPT is approved and after the start date on your EAD card.

How do I choose a start date for my OPT?

When you apply for OPT, you must select a date for your OPT to begin. This date can be as soon as your program end date or as late as 60 days after your program end date. Keep in mind the following as you are selecting your date:

  • You cannot change your OPT start date, however, the approved start date may be later than the one that you requested, depending on application processing times
  • You cannot begin working before your OPT start date
  • If you do not yet have a job, your 90 days of unemployment begin on the OPT start date

What if I can’t find a job?

You are permitted a total of 90 days of unemployment while you are on OPT. If you cannot find a job within 90 days of your OPT start date, you are considered out of status. At this point, you must either enroll as a full-time student or leave the country. Either of these options causes you to lose your OPT benefits.

Must I find a job in my major?

Yes. OPT is designed to give you practical work experience in the U.S. in your field of study.

What should I do once I find a job?

Congratulations! Once you find a job, send your employer information to pwoodardgeorge@uca.edu and a DSO will update your SEVIS record. Include the following information:

  • Employer Name
  • Supervisor Name
  • Employment start date
  • Employer Address
  • Employer Phone Number

Can I change jobs during OPT?

Yes. If you change employment during OPT, just send your new employer information to pwoodardgeorge@uca.edu and a DSO will update your SEVIS record. Include the information above.

What happens if I lose my OPT card?

If you lose your EAD card, you must apply for a lost card and pay the associated fee.